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Revive Us Again
At this weekend men’s retreat the theme of our time together was “Revive Us Again.”
This was actually a prayer for God’s mercy upon the nation of Israel by the sons of Korah in Psalm 85:6.
“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6 NIV)
And it is such a prayer that the church has been praying for, and is usually attached to a prayer for the Holy Spirit to come down much as Isaiah’s prayer in chapter 64.
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence.” (Isaiah 64:1 NIV)
And while I didn’t want the mountains around us to shake, what Isaiah and then what we should desire is for the Holy Spirit to come down in power and shake loose those mountains in our lives that have stopped God from doing great and mighty things.
To do this I went to one of the main Scriptures that is often quoted when people pray for revival, especially here in America, is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)
What many people miss is that this is a conditional prayer and promise. It is one of those “If/Then” promises. The condition is that if we want God to forgive our sins and heal our land we must first humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways.
The first part of my message surrounded our need to repent, to turn from our wicked ways, and the Lord led me to a Scripture that speaks as powerfully as 2 Chronicles 7:14. In fact, I would put this Scripture on par with it. It’s from the prophet Hosea.
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12 NKJV)
He’s telling us to break up the hardness of our hearts so that we can bring fruit that is worthy, fruit that is deserving, and fruit that proves our repentance.
And the conclusion of this message was that when we break up the fallow ground of our hearts through forgiveness and repentance, sowing the seed of God’s word and righteousness, then God will send down the rain of the Holy Spirit and we’ll reap a bountiful harvest of God’s grace and mercy as He forgives our sins and heals our land.
And as I have studied the revivals of the past, this was one of the main aspects that can be pointed to that happened amongst God’s people.
But it’s the second part of this message that I’d like to spend some time on with you today, and that is our need to become a generation that seeks after the Lord, or what King David describes as a “Jacob Generation.”
But a generation that seeks after God is not what we think of when we think of Jacob. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Jacob was the second child born to Isaac and Rebekah. Actually he and his brother, Esau, were twins. Esau came out first, but not without a fight. The Bible tells how they both wrestled in Rebekah’s womb, and they were still wrestling as they came out because Jacob was trying to pull Esau back in. As Esau came out, Jacob’s hand was holding onto his heal.
That is actually the meaning behind Jacob’s name. Jacob in the Hebrew means, “heal catcher,” or “supplanter,” which means someone who wrongfully or illegally seizes the place of another.
This was who Jacob was; he was a liar and a deceiver. He got Esau to sell him his birthright, and then he deceived his father into giving him Esau’s covenant blessing. Thus he fulfilled what he tried to accomplish in the womb, and that is to wrestle away from Esau God’s blessings. So instead of it being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau, it’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But, is that the Jacob generation that we are to be like? If it is, then our society certainly has this part down. We live in a generation that lies and cheats its neighbor. We live in a generation that deceives and connives to get what they want. This generation is definitely a Jacob generation as it regards this part of Jacob’s life.
But this is not the type of generation God wants us to be. God wants us to be a generation marked by a new beginning like it was for Jacob when God changed his name to Israel prior to his re-entering the Promised Land twenty years later.
Look at what King David said concerning this sort of generation.
“This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face.” (Psalm 24:6 NKJV)
What happened to Jacob, and how did a deceiver become a seeker?
As Jacob was coming back to the land of his father with his family and flocks he gets a report that his brother Esau was coming with 400 men to wipe him out.
So Jacob left his family and flocks on one side of the River Jabbok and passed over to the other side to seek God. There he met God and wrestled with Him throughout the night. It was then God changed his name from Jacob, or “heal catcher,” to Israel, “one who prevails with God.”
It is this part of Jacob’s life that God wants this and every generation to be. God wants us to be a generation, like Jacob, who seeks earnestly after the Lord.
How do we do this? What does the Bible say? What exactly are we to seek from God?
We’ll be exploring these questions, but before we do, I’d like to share with you a couple of verses to show the necessity of being serious about seeking God; serious about being this Jacob generation.
The first is found in Isaiah 55.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NKJV)
The Lord is near and here right now. Jesus said that where two or three are gathered in His name that He would be there in their midst. (Matthew 18:20) He is also near, according to Isaiah, to everyone who calls out to Him, to those who seek Him.
But is it possible there will come a time when He cannot be found, when He is not near? The implication from this verse is yes.
• Earlier the Lord said, “For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you.” (Isaiah 54:7)
• Later on in Isaiah the Lord says that their sins have separated them from God so much so that He no longer hears their cries. (Isaiah 59:2)
• And when God rebuked Israel for their idolatry He said, “Where are your gods that you have made…Let them arise and save you in your time of trouble.” (Jeremiah 2:28)
God is near and ready to save all who call out to Him, but it also means we need to seek Him with a pure heart; a heart that knows how desperately wicked it is and seeks forgiveness.
Now the next verse is Psalm 27 where David talks about his desire to seek God.
“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
When the Lord said to David, “Seek My face,” David said, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
David understood the possibility of God being angry and hiding His face from him. David said,
“Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger…do not leave me nor forsake me O God of my salvation.” (Psalm 27:9)
After his sin with Bathsheba David prayed for God not to cast him away from His presence, and not to take the Holy Spirit away, but instead to restore to him the joy of salvation. (Psalm 51)
And the good news for those who know God, who have come to belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, the Bible says God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
This idea of our need to seek after God permeates throughout His word. So what does it mean to seek after God?
In the Hebrew there are two words for seeking after God. One implies a yearning to frequently inquire, and the second is the desire to enter into someone’s presence. In the Greek there are also two words that mean to reach out and to seek in order to understand.
Therefore, seeking after God means persistence on our part to reach out to God, to enter into His presence, and to understand Him to a greater degree. It was such a seeking that motivated the Apostle Paul.
“That I may know Him (Jesus) and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10 NKJV)
This word “to know” means more than a mere knowledge of; instead it carries the thought of intimacy. It is to know Christ as one spouse knows another. Paul is after an intimate relationship.
And so to seek after God is the effort on our part to reach out to God and to know Him intimately by entering into His presence.
Now, in Psalm 24 where David talks about this need to seek after God, He talks about how the gates and doors need to lift of their heads for the Lord is coming, the King of Glory, the Lord God Almighty.
What are these gates and doors that David is referencing? These are the gates of Jerusalem and the doors of the Temple. Remember David asks the question, “Who can ascend the hill of the Lord.” It’s a reference to Mt. Zion where Jerusalem sits, and the holy place refers to the Temple.
But the gates of Jerusalem and the door of the temple really can’t lift up their head, so what are we to make of this?
When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord God sets up His temple inside of us.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV)
And so the gates that David is talking about are the gates to our hearts, and the doors are the doors to our spirit where Jesus and Holy Spirit dwell. And so God is saying for us to lift up our heads, lift up our eyes, because the King of Glory, the Lord God Almighty is coming.
And so for this to take place the Holy Spirit through David gives us what we must do if we want the Lord to come through the gates of our hearts and into the doors of our spirit and set up His throne in our lives.
“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:4 NKJV)
But what does it take to have clean hands and a pure heart? It comes through belief in Jesus Christ and what He did for us upon the cross; how he took our place and died our death. It’s a willingness on our part to seek God’s forgiveness and turn from our wicked ways.
And so to be that Jacob Generation that seeks after God, we first need to deal with our sins, to ask God for forgiveness and turn from our own ways and the ways of this world, and turn to God and to His word for our lives.
But how are we to go about this process? How Are We To Seek God?
1. With a Prepared Heart
God commended Jehoshaphat in how he prepared his heart to seek after Him, and God blessed Jehoshaphat when he did, even giving Judah one its greatest victories where they didn’t even have to lift a weapon in the battle. All they had to do was to pick up the loot.
But Jehoshaphat didn’t always seek after God, which gives all of us hope, because we haven’t sought after God the way we should either.
What happened is that Jehoshaphat sided with the wicked king Ahab, even so far as saying that they were one, seeing that they were from Abraham’s seed. When they went to battle, which God warned them not to, Jehoshaphat about lost his life. As he was returning, the prophet Jehu met him and rebuked his alliance with the wicked and those who hate God.
But Jehu brought out something else that goes to the very heart of what it takes for revival.
“Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.” (2 Chronicles 19:3 NKJV)
He removed the idols, which was one of the conditions found in Psalm 24. That those who ascend to the Lord, those who are of this Jacob Generation that seeks after the Lord is someone who doesn’t lift up their soul to an idol. (Psalm 24:4)
We must be willing to remove the idols from our lives, that is, everything that takes God’s place.
The purpose of such preparation is to seek God with all our heart and soul.
This leads me to the second way we are to seek after God
2. With Our Whole Heart
As the children of Judah were about to go into captivity, the Lord spoke these words through the prophet Jeremiah to give them a hope and a future.
“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NKJV)
And so we are to seek God with the whole of our hearts, that is, with everything that we are we’re to seek after God.
And the third way we are to seek after God is …
3. With All Humility
The Bible talks about how God hears those who are humble and are close to them.
“Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear.” (Psalm 10:17 NKJV)
God is turned off by pride. He will not hear or look upon us when pride exists. So, it’s good to be humble and to approach the Lord in all humility knowing that we are nothing more than sinful human beings coming before a holy and righteous God. This should put us on our knees every time.
Therefore, it is a good thing to seek after the Lord with a prepared and whole heart with all humility.
But what exactly are we to seek from the Lord?
1. Seek God’s Forgiveness
We need to seek God’s forgiveness, because there is no one who is righteous enough for God. The Bible says we have all sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), that is, short of God’s holy and righteous standards for life.
But we don’t need to stay in that sinful condition, because God has provided forgiveness for all our sins through faith in Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made upon the cross.
Because of that, the Bible says,
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJV)
What do you need to seek God’s forgiveness for? This goes to the very heart of getting our hearts prepared to seek after God so we can receive His blessings.
The second thing is that we need to …
2. Seek God’s Correction
Now this is something we don’t hear every day, yet this is exactly what Job found to be true.
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” (Job 5:17 NKJV)
In all of his troubles Job sought after God, and seeing the benefits who wouldn’t. What do I mean by benefits? While Job says that bruises may occur, God will bind them up. That God will deliver from all troubles. That in famine God will redeem, and in war God will protect. And when destruction comes we’ll not be afraid. And finally our descendants will live in peace.
Now do you know why Job said that those whom God corrects are happy and blessed? So seek God’s correction.
And finally we are to …
3. Seek God’s Strength
In King David’s song of thanksgiving he sings,
“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore.” (1 Chronicles 16:11 NKJV)
We can in no way do this on our own. We need God’s strength to live this life of faith we’ve been called to journey upon.
The Apostle Paul found this out to be true. He had a debilitating disease that left him disabled. And so he sought after God’s healing, but instead he was given God’s strength to continue in spite of his physical limitations.
“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NKJV)
It’s a good thing to seek the Lord, and we are to seek God with a prepared and whole heart with all humility. And in our seeking we are to seek not only the Lord God Himself, but also His forgiveness, correction, and strength.
The highest and greatest desire we can ever possess is the longing after God. It is to seek after God. It is to be that Jacob Generation.
In the end, and what we concluded with is that if we want a revival, we need to plow up the fallowed ground of our hearts and then seek Him, to seek Him as seriously as Jacob so that we can receive His blessings and righteousness.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study